Charity asks for community ambassadors to help tackle domestic abuse in Sunderland

Sunderland’s Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) is calling for members of the public to become ‘Ask Me’ Ambassadors, in an innovative new approach to tackling domestic abuse.

WWIN, a specialist domestic abuse service providing refuge accommodation and outreach services across Sunderland, is one of just three locations in the UK, chosen by Women’s Aid to implement a progressive new pilot scheme, Change That Lasts. As part of the scheme, they are running a two day training programme to inspire members of the public – who engage with people in their local area – to become Community Ambassadors.

As well as raising awareness of the issue, participants are trained in how to spot the signs of domestic abuse in the early stages, how to raise the question and how to support and signpost victims to the necessary services, before it reaches crisis point.

“Families, friends and communities are the first people that get to know and should be the first point of contact,” explained Becky Rogerson, Acting Director at WWIN. “That’s an initiative that Wearside Women are pushing through really strongly; let’s get the people who should be supporting us as the frontline, instead of waiting until those cases get so serious that public services have to get involved. We all have a duty as people to respond to our family and friends.”

Having been supporting women in Sunderland for over 30 years, WWIN’s person-centred approach and community backing made them the perfect candidates for the scheme. “It’s a real privilege to be chosen,” Rogerson continued. “We already have a tonne of supporters who want to do something… The fundraising is fabulous and absolutely essential for keeping our services running but this is a scheme that allows people to get involved and personally make a difference.”

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that domestic violence offences in the North East have continued to rise exponentially in the last few years, increasing by more than 90 per cent from 2015-16 to 2017-18. This is despite a commitment from Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, to tackling domestic and sexual abuse as a priority in her Police and Crime Plan.

Additionally, the latest Femicide Census, developed by Women’s Aid and Karen Ingala-Smith, Chief Executive of women’s organisation nia, and member of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse at Durham University, revealed that the North East has one of the highest rates of femicide in the UK.

The annual report, released in December, found that a woman is killed by her male partner every four days here in the UK, with at least 139 women killed by men in 2017. And the area covered by Northumbria Police Force sits in the top 10 of regions with the highest rates of femicides per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, Baird continues to be forthcoming with her support, she commented: “I want to reaffirm my commitment to protecting victims of domestic abuse and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. We have been absolutely clear that Northumbria Police’s number one priority is to protect those in our communities who are vulnerable. I regularly fight for extra funding and resources to help police this issue and provide support to victims. Anyone who is suffering such abuse can come forward knowing that we will sensitively and respectfully deal with their case.”

‘Community Ambassador’ training days are scheduled to take place on the following dates: Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March 2019, Wednesday 10 April and Wednesday 17 April. Express your interest here

For more information contact Jud Hindess, WWIN Health Advocate and Training Officer on Jud.hindess@wwin.org.uk 

If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, contact the WWIN 24 hour helpline on 0800 066 55 55 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk

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